By MICHAEL BUSHNELL
October 2, 2013
Ask any neighborhood president in Historic Northeast and they’ll tell you that getting positive attention on a local level is next to impossible. Getting it on a national level is like trying to bottle lightning. These days Pendleton Heights Neighborhood Association President Jessica Ford Ray is busy. Very busy. She’s bottling lightning – and in a big way.
Last week, This Old House magazine announced that the Pendleton Heights neighborhood was one of 13 of the Best Old House Neighborhoods in the Midwest, ranked with such neighborhoods as the Bronzeville area of Chicago, College Hill Park in Topeka, Kan., and the Frogtown neighborhood in St. Paul, Minn. Pendleton Heights scored high enough to be ranked among 61 neighborhoods chosen by the editors of the magazine on a variety of Old House Neighborhoods criteria.
“We’re pretty stinkin’ excited,” said Ray, who’s worked tirelessly along with a score of volunteers to put Pendleton Heights on the map, and not just here in town, obviously.
She’s quick to note, however, that the honor isn’t something that was signed up for.
“One of the editors of This Old House heard about the neighborhood and got in touch with us to find out more,” she said. “We’re just really excited that everyone’s hard work is starting to pay off.”
Indeed. Two weeks ago, the Pendleton Heights neighborhood received the Kansas City Green Neighborhood award for their weekly curbside recycling and compost pickup and transforming vacant lots into community gardens and an orchard.
“We spend all year searching for our picks for Best Old House Neighborhoods,” said Lori Lefevre Wells, a spokesperson for This Old House. “The list comes from a mix of nominations to our own ‘good old-fashion’ reporting. We speak to preservation groups, realtors, locals. We select only one neighborhood per state, and we really have to hunt in some areas for the best.”
Urban living is a hot trend right now, she said, making it more expensive to live in cities. This Old House aimed to choose neighborhoods that were still affordable relative to the standard of living in the area.
“We look for old neighborhoods with a true identity and rich architecture, a real feel to the neighborhood,” Wells said. “Plus, we ask ourselves: Is it attracting new buyers, artists or small businesses, a certain type of person? We are looking for a new energy.”
One of the aspects that truly impressed This Old House with Pendleton Heights was its stock of “gorgeous” Victorian era homes, and being close to downtown didn’t hurt, either.
This Old House editors placed Pendleton Heights in several “best of” categories, including bargains; Victorian housing stock; city living; easy commutes; being a great area for first-time buyers; and an area that has lots of activities to engage the residents.
That said – if you’re in the market for some bottled lightning, Jessica Ford Ray can get you squared away. Oh, and if you’re looking to score a great old house in the only neighborhood in Kansas City ranked one of the nation’s best for old house neighborhoods, she can help there, too.